The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series  by The Diplomat for summer and fall 2015 featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis.All articles in the series can be found here.

To respond to the alarming rise of stranded persons in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, the Royal Thai Government organized the “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” on May 29, 2015 in Bangkok. The meeting was convened to address the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees from Myanmar. These refugees are mainly Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. They have been treated as “second-class” and”non citizens,” suffering from social discrimination, massive violent repression, human rights violations, and political exclusion. In addition to repressive policies by the central government, the Rohingya have also faced extremely anti-Muslim sentiments fanned partly by government-supported Buddhist fundamentalism in Myanmar.

The Southeast Asian and South Asian region has witnessed tremendous human movement – including hundreds of thousands refugees from Myanmar trying to enter neighboring countries illegally – especially Bangladesh. However, despite the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis, most of the potential host states are reluctant to accept more Rohingya refugees. One of the major reasons for this is an increasing trend in the region of viewing the Rohingya issue not solely as a humanitarian issue, but also a security and political one. As awareness has grown in both dimensions – humanitarian and security – there is a growing recognition among the international community of the need to do more than just ignoring the worsening situation of the Rohingya.

Historically, the Rohingya are predominantly Muslim and closely related to the Bengali people. Originally, many of them migrated from the Indian subcontinent towards the east into ‘Theravada Buddhist Myanmar,’ especially during the British colonial time. Relations between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar started deteriorating during the country’s liberation struggle. Relatively soon after gaining independence, the new rulers in Myanmar identified the Rohingya as economic refugees, a move that would be significant to the socio-economic composition and political power structure of the country. A policy of repression soon followed, which treated the Rohingya as illegal migrants subject to eviction.

The severity of the Rohingya migration issue can be understood as a clear result of three intermingling factors.  First is the emergence of authoritarian (military) regimes in Myanmar. Second is the consequence of a cultural confrontation between different ethnic-religious communities in Myanmar. This conflict gained significance after the military rulers attempted to assimilate religious-ethnic minorities into the mainstream Burmese culture. A strategy of an enforced cultural unification, namely Burmanization, was used as a way of “National Reconsolidation.” Third is the initial ignorance and inaction from policymakers worldwide despite the fact that the Rohingya issue was increasingly having international implications.

Today, it would seem that awareness of the Rohingya and their illegal migration is finally rising within the international community. In part, however, this new attention to the Rohingya issue stems from the tendency to identify Rohingya refugees as a “non-traditional security threat.”

In particular, there is a growing conviction among analysts that the massive influx of the Rohingyas during the last decades is creating a multidimensional security crisis. As stateless refugees, they have become the face of security threats as well as various forms of psycho-social and human security challenges in Myanmar and in their new host countries across the region like Bangladesh.

Most Rohingya who have migrated to other countries live in extraordinarily deplorable conditions. Living in forms of involuntarily and illegal self-settlement, they have to deal regularly with security forces, the unease and resistance of local communities, and restricted access to food, drinking water, sufficient shelter, and clothing. Partly as a result of these circumstances, they are often more easily targeted by criminal networks, illegal businesses, and Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), or Harkat-ulJihad-al Islami (Huji).

This in turn leads illegal Rohingya migrants – particularly those living in illegal camps or unregistered as refugees – to be perceived as the cause of conflict. The movement of Rohingya refugees begins to be viewed through the prism of the rising challenge of controlling Islamic terrorism and political Islam in the region.

At the heart of this view is the following worry: the Rohingya problem is contributing to and is partly responsible for the rise of international jihadist movements. In more operational terms, there is the claim that the Rohingya are helping to support Islamic fundamentalism by acting as a (passive) recruiting base for Islamic militant extremists and through direct support for religious fundamentalism.

It is claimed that some radicalized sections of the refugees actively maintain links with banned Islamist groupings like JMB or Huji. Some radicalized Rohingya are accused of not only sympathizing with their fundamentalist worldview but also actively providing resources for these Islamist outfits, for example, providing training on arms and explosives. Additionally, there is the accusation that the Rohingya are using their international network to allocate funds from like-minded international organizations for militant groups operating in their host countries, especially in Bangladesh.

Rohingya have also been held responsible for the undermining of the general law and order situation in their host societies. Besides terrorism, extremist violence, and religious extremism, the Rohingya crisis is also seen as being associated with all kinds of criminal activities including narcotics, human trafficking, illegal trade in SALW (small arms and light weapons) and ammunition, stealing, armed robbery, and maritime piracy. Other major concerns are smuggling and illegal cross-border infiltrations.

Additionally, Rohingya have increasingly linked with growing rates of crimes related to extortion, sexual harassment (including prostitution and sexual slavery), killings for organs, domestic servitude, and forced labor by criminal networks in their host countries.

However, there is the tendency among authorities of host countries to ignore the fact that the Rohingya are mostly the victims and not the perpetrators in these scenarios. Rather, it seems that the general tendency up to this point has been to focus on the refugee crisis as the causal factor for the increase in security concerns.

Rohingya have also been identified by some host governments and local communities as a negative disturbance to local economies, especially when they are settling in underdeveloped regions. Some fear that the Rohingya constitute an additional demographic pressure on the already densely populated area with scarce resources. Others claim that the (mostly illegal) penetration of the refugees in regional job markets leads to further socio-economic inequalities and reduces employment opportunities for the local workforce.

Still others suggest that security measures are needed because the refugee crisis is causing instability, leading to a real reduction in trade and commerce, especially in the Bangladesh-Myanmar relations. In this context, Rohingya are also blamed by state authorities for delays in enhancing regional connectivity (infrastructure) and hampering the working relationship between Dhaka and Naypyidaw.

With bilateral talks between Malaysia and Indonesia and the earlier mentioned Bangkok conference on “irregular migrations”

Source by: http://thediplomat.com/2015/10/the-rohingya-humanitarian-crisis-or-security-threat/

on May 29, as well as other steps, the international approach to the Rohingya is finally moving from ignorance to action. But it would be naïve to think this trajectory is only due to the humanitarian crisis of the refugees. Rather, the negative impacts of illegal migration – particularly on the security side – have finally convinced the international community to act, even though this may be based on unfounded fears.

Given this, what is most important is to preserve the political will and to strengthen the decision-making procedures in order to work towards a coherent and comprehensive solution to the Rohingya problem. Attending to security concerns cannot be done at the expense of humanitarian needs.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Joint Statement on violations of Rule of Laws by NLD Government in Burma: NLD must ensure full protection of Rohingya with their genuine identity as indigenous ethnic people of Arakan

Date: 15 July 2016

Joint Statement on violations of Rule of Laws by NLD Government in Burma:
NLD must ensure full protection of Rohingya with their genuine identity as indigenous ethnic people of Arakan

We, the indigenous ethic Rohingya people of Arakan State, Burma, living in both home and exile are very much disappointed on undemocratic strategies against Rohingya and entire people of Burma as ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) Government is exercising undemocratic rules and regulation; even ignoring international human rights mechanisms and charters.

Ruling State Councilor of Burma, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is also a Noble Peace Laureate and tiled as Burma Democracy Icon was a hope for international community and world leaders that she would play vital roles in making peace in the country with appropriate democratic transition and national reconciliation but she is practicing extreme racism and xenophobic strategies.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has forgotten her destiny, when she was in house arrest, while the ethnic Rohingya people in exile were organizing mass protests for her release and to have urgent democratic transition in Burma in collaboration with other ethnic nationalities. As a result, the NLD could achieve its goal in winning landslide victory in 2015 election.

On the other hand, the world leaders and international community were in favor of democratic struggle but now, some quarter, particularly the European Union, is following the directions of racist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who does not have rights to lead the people on Top-Down leadership which is against democratic frameworks.

We have strong believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD Government is fully responsible on all kinds of human rights abuses, violence, racism, xenophobia and ill treatments, impunity and undemocratic exercises, while the Racist Lady is moving against Rule of Laws to which she was voicing until occupying her post and government power.

We also identified that so-called Democracy Government is fully supporting toward genocidal actions, extra judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detention, taxations, demolishing of Mosques and worshiping places, unlawful imprisonment, rapes, tortures, confiscation of lands and properties, restriction on their travel of movement, restriction on their higher education, restriction on marriage and family development, restriction of business development.
In this regard, we urge NLD Government:-

1. To stop all kind of tragedies against Rohingya and other Muslim minorities in Burma
2. To urgently stop racist activities of NLD government in line with international standard;
3. To urgently issue National Registration Card to ethnic Rohingya, stopping discriminative National Verification Process as they are bona-fide citizen of Arakan and indigenous by their ancestry;
4. To urgently hold peace dialogue with Rohingya leaders both in home and exile in order to proceed for a peaceful settlement of conflict in Arakan and to rebuild trust and harmony among the people Arakan as previous;

We request to the international community and world leaders:-

1. To boycott relationship with NLD Government of Burma, banning the visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, until revealing the truth and practicing full democratic systems under international standard mechanism;
2. To exert effective pressure on Burmese Government to have full democratic and structural changes in Governing system that must ensure equal rights and protection of life toward every citizen with their own identity, especially the Rohingyas of Arakan;
3. To urgently pay attention towards peace and stability in Burma with accurate peace process throughout the protection of Rohingya, disbanding all kinds of human rights abuses, discrimination, xenophobia and violence in all means.

Thank you.

Mr. Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani

President
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia (MERHROM)

Web: http://www.merhrom.wordpress.com

E-mail: rights4rohingya@yahoo.co.uk / rights4rohingyas@gmail.com

fb: facebook.com/zafar.ahmad
twitter: twitter.com/merhromZafar/ Tel: +6016-6827287

 

Mohammad  Sadek
Program Coordinator Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
(RARC), Malaysia/www.arrcinfo.blogspot.com
info@arakanwatch.org
rarcinfo@yahoo.com

Tel: 0163094599

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. E Forchhammer and Islamic Monuments in Arakan

Dr. E Forchhammer and Islamic Monuments in Arakan

Aman Ullah
RB History
February 20, 2016
Dr. Emil Forchhammer, a German-born Swiss Professor of Pali at Rangoon College, in his report of Arakan , which was publish in 1891, described not only all the historical, social, cultural, archaeological aspects of Arakan but also its religious side. He touched from the dawn of history to end of its independent. The report was organized into 3 chapters; in chapter I he dealt with specially Mahamamuni Pagoda and other Buddhists momuments, in chapter II Mrohaung and in chapter III with Launnyet, Minbya, Urittaung, Akyab and Sandoway and in the 1970s reprint version it contains 115 pages.
Mrohaung
In the chapter II, at page 15, Forchhammer wrote about Mrohaung as follows:-
“The most important archaeological remains in Arakan are found in Mrohaung, the capital of the once powerful Myauk-u kings. The Mahamuni and all other pagodas mentioned in the Selagiri tradition are remembered and visited for purposes of worship by the Arakanese and Buddhists in general because their foundation or history is connected with the supposed advent of Gotama in Dhannavati; they afford, however, few instances of decorative art and few examples of constructive skill.”
About the splendid temples those the peoples of that time seldom to worship Forchhammer mentioned that, “For the splendid temples of Mrohaung, built by the kings of the Myauk-u dynasty, the natives have more superstitious awe than religious reverence; they seldom worship at these shrines and they allowed them to fall into disrepair; while they contribute freely to plaster, whitewash., or gild the architecturally worthless Urittaung or the Sandoway pagodas, they will not raise a hand to prevent the wanton destruction, by treasure-hunters, of the temples, which bespeak the power, resources, and culture of their former rulers. The architectural style of the Shitthaune and Dukkanthein pagodas is probably unique in India, and the two shrines are undoubtedly the finest ruins in Lower Burma. They were not constructed by the Arakanese, but by ” Kulas ” from India; the natives were forced to burn the bricks and bring the stones from distant quarries; Hindu architects and Hindu sculptors raised and embellished the structures ; to the Arakanese, compelled to years of unpaid labour, these pagodas are an unpleasant reminiscence of the tyrannic and arbitrary rule of several Myauk-u kings.” 
About the name of Mrauk u, he mentioned that, “The Arakanese name vas Mrauk-u, or monkey’s egg (the Burmese name for potato),the origin of which is very obscure. It stands at the head of a branch of the Kaladan river, about 50 miles from its mouth, almost at the farthest limit of tidal influence, on a rocky plain surrounded by hills. The principle creek is formed of two branches, which unite below the hills and pass through the town (see British Burma Gazetteer, 4.23).” 
A Brief history of Mrauk U
“The ruins of Mrohaung, as we now see them, date chiefly from the 15th and 16th centuries. Cities have, however, been founded at very early dates on the same plain. Parin (Barin, Paraung), east of Mrohaung on the Le`mro, formed one of the “Catur-gamas” or “‘four cities.” In the year B. E. 315 (A.D 957) King Amrathu, a Chief of the Mru tribe and connected with the Vesali dynasty through his mother Candradevi who had been raised to the position of chief queen in the palace of Culataincandra, founded a city 4 miles to the north-east of the spot where the palace of Myauk-a now stands ; the embankments of the town form a pen-tagon and are still traceable ; but, it was soon abandoned owing to the want of sweet, water and to the prevalency of fever,. ” which befell alike men, horses, and elephants.” King Paipyu, a nephew of Ararathu, selected, in the year B. E. 326, mother place for his capital on the low hills to the south-east of the former Myauk.-u. Twelve years later (B. E. 338) the Shans invaded the country and compelled Paipyu to abandon the newly founded city; it remained for 18 years in possession of the invaders.”
 
“Subsequent kings built the Paiicanagara, Kyeitmyo, Parin (the new), and other towns on the Anjanadi (Le`mro). In the year B. E. 768 (A. D. 1406), the city of Launggyet was destroyed by Talaings and Burmans. King Minzawmun, the son of Rajathu, the last but one of the Launggyet dynasties, fled to Suratan (i.e., the dominions of the Sultan). In B. E. 792 (A. D. 1430) he returned to Arakan supported by the Mahomedan ruler of Delhi. He ascended the Anjanadi, and guided by the prognostications of his astrologer Candindaraja, entered a creek to the west and selected a site between the Shwedaung and Galun hills for the erection of a royal residence and a city. King Minzawmun is the first of the Myauk-u dynasty; a century later King Minbin, or Sirisuriyacandramahadhammaraja, the twelfth king of this line, constructed fortifications, roads, and embankments; by his ortifr were built the Tharekop and Shwedaung pagodas. The 14th king, Zawhla, had the Alayceti and Myaukceti, the Dukkankyauhg, Taungkyaung, and Kulamyokyaung erected (B.E 917—926, A. D. 1555— 1564), Minpalaung (B. E. 933) repaired the Urittaung and Mahahti pagodas. Minrajagri, the 17th of the Myauk-u dynasty (B. E. 955 — 974), raised the wall which enclose the palace from 9 to 12 cubits and perfected the system of fortifications begun by King Minbin; he built the Parabo pagoda and repaired the Andaw, Sandaw, and Nandaw cetis at Sandway. Minkamaung, his successor, built the Thuparama ceti, Shwepara, and Ngwepara (B. E, 974 — 984). Siridhammaraja restoredthe Selagiri shrine (see page 14) in the year 986 B. E. King Candasudhamma, to the Arakanese better known as ” Pazamin,” had the Shweguha pagoda erected and also the Ratanazanu ceti ; he repaired all pagodas in Arakan reputed to contain relics of Gotamah he also constructed (B. E, 1038) a new palace within the old enclosures and had his effigy in stone set up at the gates facing the cardinal points (see Plate X, No. i). Varadhammaraja repaired the Urittaung pagoda and erected the Mangalaramaceti (B, A. 1053). Candavijaya (B. E. 1072, A. D If 10), who reigned 21 years, is said to have constructed and repaired in Arakan 800 pagodas, image Houses, tanks, and monasteries. After his demise no religious or other buildings of importance have been raised. In the yea; A. D. 1784 the Burmans conquered Arakan and Myauk-u became the site of a Burmese Viceroy. A year before the occupation of Arakan by the Government of India the higher Burmese officials repaired the large tank in the south-east corner, II terrace, of the palace enclosure and had the meritorious deed recorded in a long inscription on a slab of alabaster {see Plate X, No. 4).”
Santikan Mosque
Forchhammer described all the Buddhist pagodas, monuments and temples in the chapter II as far as he can. Alongside of these at page 39, he also mentioned a non- Buddhist temple, i.e., an Islamic mosque called Santikan mosque as follows:-
“Two and a half miles to the east-south-east of the palace is another non-Buddhistic temple. It is a Mahomedan mosque, called Santikan, built by the followers of King Minzawmwun after he had returned from 24 years of exile in the Suratan (Sultan) country (from A. D. 1-406 to 1430). South of the road which leads to Alayse’yua are two large tanks with stone embankments; between them is the mosque surrounded by a stone wall 4′ high. The temple court measures 65′ from north to south and 82′ from east to west (for plan of building and photograph see Plate XXVtl, Nos. 49 and 50). The shrine is a rectangular structure with 33′ front and a length of 47′; it consists of an ante-room which occupies the whole breadth of the east front 33′ by a depth of only 9′. A passage, 6′ high, 3′ 3″ broad, leads from the north, south, and east to the ante-room; the walls are 4′ 8″ thick; the passage is vaulted; the arch consist of a series of wedge-shaped stones; the room is also vaulted, but outside the roof over it is a slanting plane from the cupola of the central chamber to the eastern front wall of the building, which Is only 9′ high. Through the centre of the west side of the ante-room a passage, 3′ wide, 6′ high, and 6′ 10″ long, and also vaulted, brings us to the principal chamber; it measures 19′ on each side; a narrow opening in the north and south walls admits some light ; on the west side a semicircular niche, 2′ wide across the opening, 1′ deep, and 5′ high, is let into the wall, but it contains nothing. The ceiling is a hemispherical low cupola constructed on the same principle as the domes in the Shitthaung and Dukkanthein pagodas. The whole shrine is built of well-cui stone blocks, the floors inclusive, but it is absolutely bare of all decorative designs or anything else of interest. The temple has of late years been put to some extent in repair by Mahomedan tradesmen of Mrohaung and is now in their custody; a Mussulman lives on the premises to keep them in order; it is now used as a house of worship.”
Akyab
In Chapter III, under the sub head of Akyab at 59, Forchhammer wrote as follow:-
 
“The town of Akyab is a modern place and owes its origin and growth chiefly to the removal, in the year 1826, of the British garrison from Mrohaung (Myauk-u), the climate of which proved pestilential to the troops, to a small fishing village at the mouth of the Kaladan river now developed into the capital of the Arakan division.”
Buddermokan
At page 60, he mentioned an Islamic monument, Buddermokan as follows:-
“There are a few modern temples in Akyab which are interesting inasmuch as their architectural style is a mixture of the Burmese turreted pagoda and the Mahomedan four-comered minaret structure surmounted by a hemispherical cupola. Plates XLII and XLIII show examples. The worship, too, is mixed; both temples are visited by Mahomedans and Buddhists, and the Buddermokan has also its Hindu votaries.“The Buddermokan (Plate XLII, No. 88) is said to have been founded in A. D. 1756 by the Mussulmans in memory of one Budder Auliah, whom they regard as an eminent saint.”
Forchhammer further mentioned about a very interesting account of Colonel Nelson Davies the then Deputy Commissioner of Akyab as follows:-
 
“Colonel Nelson Davies, in 1876 Deputy Commissioner of Akyab, gives the ‘following account in a record preserved in the office of the Commissioner of Arakan and kindly lent me : ” On the southern side ” of the island of Akyab, near the eastern shore of the Bay, there is a group of masonry buildings, ” one of which, in its style of construction, resembles an Indian mosque ; the other is a cave, constructed of stone on the bare rock, which superstructure once served as a hermit’s cell. The spot “where these buildings are situated is called Buddermokan, Budder being the name of a saint of ” Islam, and mokan, a place of abode. It is said that 140 years ago or thereabouts two brothers •’ named Manick and Chan, traders from Chittagong, while returning from Cape Negrais in a vessel ” loaded with turmeric, called at Akyab for water, and the vessel anchored off the Buddermokan rocks, ‘ On the following night, after Chan and Manick had procured water near these rocks, Manick had a dream that the saint Budder Auliah desired him to construct a cave or a place of abode at the ” locality near where they procured the water. Manick replied that he had no means wherewith he could comply with the request. Budder then said that all his (Manick’s) turmeric would turn into ” gold, and that he should therefore endeavour to erect the building from the proceeds thereof, ‘ When morning came Manick, observing that all the turmeric had been transformed into gold, consulted his brother Chan on the subject of the dream and they conjointly constructed a cave and ” also dug a well at the locality now known as Buddermokan.” 
Forchhammer also mention about charge of the Budder mokan that, “There are orders in Persian in the Deputy Commissioner’s Court of Akyab dated 1834 from William Dampier, Esquire, Commissioner of Chittagong, and also from T. Dickenson, Esquire, Commissioner- of Arakan, to the effect that one Hussain Ally (then the thugyi of Bhudamaw circle’) was to have charge of the Buddermokan in token of his good services rendered to the British force in 1825 and to enjoy any sums that he might collect on account of alms and offerings.”
“In 1849 Mr. R. C. Raikes, the officiating Magistrate at Akyab, ordered that Hussain Ally was to have charge of the Buddermokan buildings, and granted permission to one Mah Ming Oung, a female fakir, to erect a building; accordingly in 1849 the present masonry buildings were constructed by her; she also redug the tank.” 
“The expenditure for the whole work came to about Rs. 2,000. After Hussain Ally’s death his son Abdoolah had charge, and after the death of the latter his sister Me Moorazamal, the present wife of Abdool Marein, Pleader, took charge. Abdool Marein is now in charge on behalf of his wife.” 
He also mentioned the general features of the exterior buildings as follows:-
“Plate XLII shows the general features of the exterior of the buildings; the interior is very simple: a square or quadrangular room. There are really two caves, one on the top of the-rocks (see photograph) ; it has an entrance on the north and south sides ; the arch is vaulted and so is the inner chamber ; the exterior of the care is 9′ 3″ wide, 11’ r 6″ long, and 8′ 6″ high ; the inner chamber measures 7′ by 5′ 8″ ; height 6′ 5″ ; the material is partly stone, partly brick plastered ‘over ; the whole is absolutely devoid of decorative designs. The other cave is similarly constructed, only the floor is the bare rock, slightly slanting towards the south entrance; it is still smaller than the preceding cave. The principal mosque stands on a platform; a flight of brick and stone stairs leads up to it; the east front of the temple measures 28′ 6″, the south side 26′ 6″; the chamber is 16′ 9″ long and 13′ wide; the ceiling is a cupola; on the west side is a niche, let 1’ into the wall, with a pointed arch and a pillaster on each side; over it hangs a copy in Persian of the grant mentioned above. A small prayer hall, also quadrangular, with a low cupola, is pressed in between the rocks close by; all tht:(these) buildings are in good order. The curiously shaped rocks capped by these buildings form a very picturesque group. The principal mosque has become the prototype for many Buddhist temples like the one on Plate XLIII; this pagoda is the most perfect type of the blending of the Indian mosque and the Burmese turreted spire.” 
Mosque at Sandoway
Under the sub head of Sandoway at page 62 Forchammer mention a Muslims mosque as follow:
“At the foot of the hill, on the east side, stands a small image-house containing an image of Gotama constructed of bricks and covered with plaster; it was built on the site of an old shrine at the beginning of this century by the Burmese Sitke` U Shwe Bu; the shrine is peculiar; it represents a combination of the style of the Native image-house and the Mahomedan mosque (see Plate XLIV, No. 92). The passage leads to a square chamber; the ceiling follows the contour of the central cupola. The shrine is called Parahla {i.e., the beautiful pagoda) and is kept in good repair.” 

– See more at: http://www.rohingyablogger.com/2016/02/dr-e-forchhammer-and-islamic-monuments.html#sthash.4DWzIyBb.dpuf

Source by: http://www.rohingyablogger.com/2016/02/dr-e-forchhammer-and-islamic-monuments.html

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Scarred By Trafficking Abuses, Rohingya Stay Put in Camps

Scarred By Trafficking Abuses, Rohingya Stay Put in Camps

  Win Naing, a 43-year-old Rohingya, lives in Thet Kel Pyin IDP camp in Rakhine State with his wife and three young children. (PHOTO: Thin Lei Win / Myanmar Now)

 Win Naing, a 43-year-old Rohingya, lives in Thet Kel Pyin IDP camp in Rakhine State with his wife and three young children. (PHOTO: Thin Lei Win / Myanmar Now)

THET KEL PYIN, Rakhine State — After Husaina’s 20-year-old son fled poverty and discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine State by boat, she heard nothing from him for seven months.

Then, in a shocking phone call, she was told the young Rohingya Muslim was in the hands of people smugglers in Thailand, and had fallen severely ill. The only way for him to be released was to somehow find the money to pay a ransom.

“The man said: ‘If you don’t pay money, he will die… I was so upset. How did he get into the hands of the brokers? How did he become so ill?’” she said, her eyes downcast while sitting in her dank and crumbling one-room temporary home in Thet Kel Pyin displacement camp, a few kilometres outside Sittwe.

They found an employer in Malaysia willing to pay about $1,600 in exchange for Mamed Rohim’s labor. That was over a year ago and Rohim is still working to repay the debt. He only manages to send over about $50 every two to three months, which the family uses to repay their own debts.

Since fleeing their home in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in western Myanmar from which they are now barred, the family—seven other children and an asthmatic husband—is struggling to make ends meet. But Husaina says Rohim’s plight continues to haunt her.

“Even though I want to send other children on the boat so they could find jobs, I’m really worried about the brokers so I dare not,” she said, as a Rohingya neighbor joined in with a similar tale.

Waves of Rohingya Muslims have fled communal violence and apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar in recent years, many of them swept up in trafficking rings, some of which hold men like Rohim for ransom, making threats to their impoverished families that their loved ones will be killed.

But human rights groups say there has been a dramatic drop in the number of Rohingya leaving Myanmar this year. They attribute this to a crackdown on human trafficking by countries such as Thailand and Malaysia and the political changes at home following the National League for Democracy’s landslide election win in November.

The Myanmar government does not recognize the 1.1 million Rohingya as citizens and calls them “Bengalis,” to suggest they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The group is banned from travel within Myanmar and faces restrictions on access to education and healthcare.

Experiences such as Husaina’s are common among the Rohingya, confined to the squalid displacement camps outside Sittwe. The stories are shared among residents, making many fearful of the multi-day journey. Most of the Rohingya this correspondent spoke to say they are now too scared to attempt it.

“There have been very few boats since the sailing season started in October and none at all this year, 2016. The key reason is that smugglers have no option for disembarkation due to Thailand being virtually closed. Another is the situation in Malaysia (where) there are regular immigration raids,” Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group which tracks migration, told Myanmar Now.

Malaysian police have carried out arrests of asylum seekers queuing up at the offices of the U.N. refugee agency in the last week or so, and some 2,500 Rohingya are currently held in immigration detention centres across Malaysia, Lewa said.

“The majority of Rohingya who arrived over the last two, three years are unregistered and jobs have become really difficult to find… The community feels very vulnerable,” she added.

Matthew Smith, executive director of Thailand-based human rights group Fortify Rights, agrees numbers leaving Rakhine have dropped, even though it is difficult to quantify the decrease in departures due to the clandestine nature of the voyages.

He warned, however, that the transnational trafficking rings have not been dismantled and “are poised to resume their activities at the first opportunity.”

Hope Keeps Some in Myanmar

Since 2012 – when communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya displaced some 140,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them Muslims – tens of thousands have left Rakhine State by boat.

What began decades ago as a journey that would take weeks on rickety boats, has in recent years become a mass people trafficking and smuggling business. The trafficking grew to such a scale that it lead to a crackdown by Thai and Malaysian authorities last year.

In Thet Kel Pyin, home to some 5,600 displaced people, most of the Rohingya who have stayed behind have now settled down to a life of daily survival and a feeling that segregation is becoming more and more permanent.

Displaced teenagers now go to a high school near the camp that did not exist two years ago, and aid agencies as well as the government has set up more schools and clinics in and near the camps.

Despite continued government restrictions, some Rohingya have not left because they are holding out hope for the new government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD, said Smith of Fortify Rights.

“Many Muslims in Rakhine State tell us they hope Daw Suu will usher in a better day for them. Anything, they say, will be better than the past,” he said.

This hope is held despite the fact that the Rakhine State parliament is dominated by the virulently anti-Muslim Arakan National Party (ANP). The NLD itself failed to field a single Muslim candidate and has refused to condemn the persecution faced by the Rohingya, who are viewed with suspicion by many in Myanmar.

Sultan, 65, said the NLD government now offers the best hope for change. He says he is too old to go anywhere and refuses to countenance sending his daughters away, even though life in the camp is a far cry from his old life as the owner of three small businesses and a brick house in Sittwe.

He now goes around selling 150-kyat (12 cents) tooth powder in the villages and camps, driving a motorcycle a friend has bought for him.

“I feel really desolate over losing our right to vote, but I have hopes that things would improve under the new government,” he said, surrounded by his wife and seven daughters, the youngest of whom was just 26 days old.

The Thein Sein government took away the Rohingya’s last official identity papers last year, and with it their right to vote, prompting an outcry from the international community, who have been providing aid to the Rohingya.

Sultan said, “We are really thankful for the international community for helping us and I know we are still alive because of their help. But we want to stand on our own two feet. We just want to go back to where we were before.”

Tales of Abuse

For others, the tales of abuse during the boat journey are a powerful deterrent. Win Naing, a 43-year-old with three young children under the age of five, said, “What would my children and my wife do if something happened to me on the boat or in Thailand? I would rather die here.”

Kawri Mullah, Husaina’s neighbour, concurs. About six weeks ago, the 25-year-old father of two decided to leave the camp, desperate for a stable income that odd jobs cannot provide. But he has abandoned the plan for now after thinking it over, he told Myanmar Now.

His decision was influenced by what happened to his brother-in-law, who left the camp a year and a half ago and was sold by his broker to a butcher in Thailand for $850.

“He left with only two packs of energy biscuits. When they reached Thailand, a butcher apparently liked that my brother-in-law looks big and strong,” Mullah said.

After months of no pay and little to eat, the brother-in-law ran away to find another employer, but the butcher found him, and threatened and took him away, according to Mullah. That was nearly five months ago and the last time they heard from him. He wasn’t able to send any money back.

“I’m really scared after hearing his story. How can you live like that? I have two children and a wife. Here, even if I die, I have my family near me,” he said.

This story first appeared on Myanmar Now.

Source by: http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/scarred-by-trafficking-abuses-rohingya-stay-put-in-camps.html

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

A Team from Human Right Watch, Japan Meets Rohingya Leader

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

THE NLD AND THE ROHINGYA

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Gang-Raped Rohingya Women Still Await Justice

Gang-Raped Rohingya Women Still Await Justice

Gang-Raped Rohingya Women Still Await Justice
February 18
19:352016
THE TWO ROHINGYA WOMEN GANG-RAPED BY MYANMAR’S BORDER GUARD POLICE ARE STILL AWAITING JUSTICE, SAYS A LOCAL

By Rohingya Mirror

R-Vision TV News

Maungdaw – The Myanmar (Burmese) Border Guard Police (BGP) ganged-raped two Rohingya women in northern Maungdaw on February 5.

[Read the report: Border Guard Police Gang-Raped Two Rohingya Women]

Regarding the gang-rapes, local Rohingya community representatives later lodged reports to the concerned higher authorities including the Commander of the BGP, Major Kyaw Te Zar, earlier known as a just officer, to take actions against the rapist lower-ranking BGP troops.

However, no actions have been taken against the rapist troops yet.

“The commander is not taking against his rapist troops perhaps because it will shameful for the country’s reputation if the rape-case draws attention of international community.

The raped victims — Shamshidah 25, and Aminah Khatun, 28 — are critical condition due to beatings and gang-rapes by the BGP troops. The women are still awaiting justice. And the locals are very sad as nobody is giving the victims any justice.

Therefore, we seek help from anyone possible to come forward to help,” hoplessly said an elderly local.

Source by: http://www.rvisiontv.com/

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Reforms in Myanmar: Need for caution

Reforms in Myanmar: Need for caution

EDITORIAL

“The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open,” said President Thein Sein after his government signed a ceasefire agreement with eight armed ethnic groups on Thursday. The president seems to be unaware of the many hurdles on the path to peace. For one thing, seven of the 15 armed groups declined to sign the agreement. Though the Karen National Union (KNU) that has been at war with the Myanmar military for nearly 70 years is a party to the deal, the United Wa State Army, believed to be the largest and best equipped of the country’s armed ethnic groups, is not. Based in the Shan State, the Wa State Army receives large quantities of military hardware from China.

The Kachin Independence Organization, which controls vast areas of Kachin State in Myanmar’s northeast has also not joined the peace process. Thein Sein, who made the nationwide ceasefire a key platform for his reformist agenda after taking power in 2011, wanted the deal to be signed ahead of the Nov. 8 general elections. The government has removed all the groups that signed the ceasefire agreement from its list of Unlawful Associations. This is expected to help them join the political mainstream.

Thursday’s agreement was the culmination of more than two years of negotiations with both the government and the rebel groups coming under growing pressure from the West to end what a US State Department spokesman described as “the longest-running civil conflict in the world.”

Apart from US, institutions from the European Union to Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Japan were involved in the government-led peace agenda. Beijing has long expressed a desire to see peace restored in Kachin State, where it has massive investments in the local jade trade, mineral exploration and hydroelectric power.

Although the West and China exercise considerable influence over Myanmar’s peace process, the latter is worried that the West, and particularly the United States, is extending its presence in Myanmar right into China’s backyard. US Ambassador Derek Mitchell has visited war-torn Kachin State twice in just one year. This may be the reason why China put pressure on the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Organization that operate on the Myanmar-China border, not to sign the agreement. This together with the fact that opposition figures such as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and several key leaders and civil society groups have kept aloof from the peace process argues against pinning too many hopes on the ceasefire agreement restoring peace and stability in Myanmar’s ethnic regions.

Then there is the still unresolved issue of Rohingyas. Though US President Barack Obama pushed Myanmar to conclude the ceasefire as part of wider changes to protect minorities, Rohingya Muslims are the one minority who needs protection most and who stand to gain the least from the recent reforms in that country. Even the November elections will not bring any succor to them. The government has disenfranchised almost all of Myanmar’s approximately one million Rohingyas because of heavy pressure from nationalist politicians and Buddhist monks who regard them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh though their ancestors have been living in this Buddhist country since the seventh century. Worse still, almost all political parties are resorting to anti-Rohingya rhetoric to raise suspicions and create fears about this helpless minority in the minds of the majority Buddhists. Even the NLD led by Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi appears to have succumbed to pressure from radical Buddhist monks and is fielding no Muslim candidates in the elections.

This means the West should not view Thursday ceasefire agreement as the end of the reform process, but as a modest beginning. More important, they must ensure that the options before Rohingyas are not “to stay and die or to leave by boat,” as Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, pointed out in one of her reports.

Source by: http://saudigazette.com.sa/world/reforms-in-myanmar-need-for-caution/

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

In Burma’s historic elections, a Muslim minority is banned from voting but still the focus of the campaign

In Burma’s historic elections, a Muslim minority is banned from voting but still the focus of the campaign

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi skips Rohingya internment camps on campaign trip to sectarian hotbed of Rakhine, but country’s racial and religious fault-lines still dominate her visit

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Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a campaign rally at Thandwe city in Rakhine state

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a campaign rally at Thandwe city in Rakhine state  Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP

In the wretched and sprawling internment camps for Rohingya Muslims strung along the cyclone-battered Bay of Bengal, Burma’s unpredictable experiment in democracy next month is already a non-event.

There are no rallies, no posters, not even any candidates, for landmark elections as the minority Muslim community here has been wiped from the voting lists by official decree under controversial citizenship rules.

The Rohingya may not be able to cast a ballot on November 8, but they are still at the centre of an election campaign increasingly tainted by anti-Muslim sentiment fuelled by Buddhist nationalist politicians and radical monks.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been drawing huge crowds at rallies across the country, also kept her distance from the camps in her first campaign foray into Rakhine state – the scene of sectarian bloodletting between Buddhists and Muslims.

The Nobel laureate has been criticised on the international stage for her failure to speak out about the desperate plight of the Rohingya, largely confined to internment camps since the 2012 violence.

But inside Burma, also known as Myanmar, she has been attacked by Buddhist hardliners for being too sympathetic to the Muslim minority. And in Rakhine, she made her clearest call yet for an end to religious hatred and discrimination.

People cheer as they listen to Aung San Suu Kyi in ThandwePeople cheer as they listen to Aung San Suu Kyi in Thandwe  Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

“It is very important that all people regardless of religion living in our country must be safe,” Ms Suu Kyi declared.

She also gave short shrift to a Buddhist constituent who asked her about rumours that the NLD would oversee a “takeover” of the country by Muslims, who form about five per cent of the population.

It is a fear expressed repeatedly by Buddhist nationalists across the country. But Ms Suu Kyi was forthright in her response, saying the question itself risked “inciting racial or religious conflict.”

While anti-Muslim feelings are growing across Burma, the Rohingya of Rakhine state are particularly reviled. Corralled in camps behind military checkpoints after the communal bloodshed three years ago, many have risked their lives fleeing on rickety trafficker boats as South East Asia’s “boat people.”

“We can’t go anywhere,” one community elder told The Telegraph. “At least the blacks in South Africa could leave the bantustan homelands created by the Afrikaaners to go to work, we can’t even do that. We’re trapped.”

Rohingya migrants pass food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopter to others aboard a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on on May 14, 2015. A boat crammed with scores of Rohingya migrants was found drifting in Thai waters on May 14, with passengers saying several people had died over the last few days.Rohingya migrants in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe  Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

Rohingya leaders insist that they have roots in Burma dating back centuries, but the country’s government has long viewed them as illegal Muslim interlopers from neighbouring Bangladesh. The Burmese do not even accept the name Rohingya, instead calling them “Bengalis”.

Their plight as a stateless unwanted people was already pitiful. But in the former British colony’s venture towards a new, democratic era after five decades of military dictatorship, they are losers before any votes are even cast.

Buddhism has a reputation as a religion of peace and tolerance, but a new breed of firebrand Burmese monk has exerted its political clout by stoking the anti-Islamic feeling during the campaign.

Leading the onslaught has been Ashin Wirathu, a militant Burmese monk once dubbed “The Buddhist Bin Laden”. “Muslims are only well behaved when they are weak,” he once declared. “When they are strong they are like a wolf or a jackal, in large packs they hunt down other animals.”

Myanmar's firebrand Buddhist monk Wirathu in YangonBurma’s firebrand Buddhist monk Wirathu in Yangon  Photo: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

It is precisely this kind of sectarian feeling that Burma’s military-backed ruling party has now sought to harness in its bid to fend off the challenge of Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD and cling to power.

As part of that effort, Thein Sein, the general-turned-president, this year supervised the whole-scale disenfranchisement of Rohingyas – a people allowed to vote in previous elections under the military – after the confiscation of their identity cards.

It might have been expected that Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest for her advocacy of free speech, would have publicly defended the oppressed minority.

But she is now a politician seeking victory in an electorate where there are few votes in speaking out for the Rohingya. So she has taken a political calculation to say little about their fate, for now at least.

Indeed, in Burma her party is still assailed for being “weak on Islam” after it opposed four new “race and religion” laws that were championed by Buddhist clerics and are widely seen as discriminating against Muslims and women.

The intimidating stance of the radical Buddhist Organisation for Protection of Nationality and Religion (Ma Ba Tha) has already exercised its toll on the choice of candidates by the NLD.

Win Htein, a senior MP, has acknowledged “political reasons” forced Ms Suu Kyi’s party not to name a single Muslim candidate for election.

“We have qualified Muslim candidates but we can’t select them for political reasons,” he said. “If we choose Muslim candidates, Ma Ba Tha points their fingers at us so we have to avoid it.”

Buddhist monks who support Ma Ba Tha sit as they attend a celebration of the recent establishment of four controversial bills decried by rights groups as aimed at discriminating against the country's Muslim minority, at a rally in a stadium at Yangon Buddhist monks attend a victory rally celebrating the passage of controversial ‘race and religion’ laws in Rangoon  Photo: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

And even Muslim candidates who tried to run for other parties were disqualified by the state because they could not prove their parents were eligible to be Burmese citizens at the time of their birth.

“It’s racism and religious discrimination, straight and simple,” said Kyaw Min, leader of the Democracy and Human Rights Party, a mainly Rohingya political grouping, who was among dozens of disqualified Muslim election candidates.

“I am 70 and my parents were born here when Britain ruled Burma,” he said. “I have submitted all the records that I have but still they won’t accept it. I stood as a candidate and won in 1990, but now they say I’m not Burmese.”

But Rohingya leaders said that they understood the political pressures that have shaped Ms Suu Kyi’s decision not to talk about their suffering or name Muslim candidates, even while she is assailed internationally for her stance.

“I would not say that I am disappointed with her because she has to operate in this country with the mood here now,” said Kyaw Min. “I am sure that things will be better for us if the NLD wins the elections.”

Source by: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/11939177/In-Burmas-historic-elections-a-Muslim-minority-is-banned-from-voting-but-still-the-focu

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

US Report Catalogs Religious Freedom Abuses in Authoritarian Asian States

US Report Catalogs Religious Freedom Abuses in Authoritarian Asian States

By Richard Finney

china-churches-07272015.jpg

Cross still in place on the Jinjia’er church in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, July 27, 2015

Religious freedoms were harshly restricted in China and Myanmar over the past year, with Chinese authorities removing hundreds of crosses from Christian churches in a coastal province and the government in Myanmar limiting the rights of Muslims and other religious minorities, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, government authorities continued to harass unregistered religious groups, especially those suspected of involvement in political activity, while in Laos national authorities failed to prevent abuses by officials in remote areas of the country, according to the report.

In China, the State Department’s 2014 International Religious Freedom Report said, government authorities “tortured, physically abused, detained, arrested, sentenced to prison, or harassed a number of religious adherents” belonging to both registered and unregistered groups.

Hundreds of crosses and steeples deemed illegal structures were forcibly removed from churches in Zhejiang province, and in some cases a number of prominent churches, including Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou city, were demolished, the report said.

Local authorities also pressured religious believers to join state-controlled religious associations and used coercive measures, including confinement and abuse in detention centers, to punish members of unregistered groups, the State Department said.

Restrictions meanwhile continued in Uyghur and Tibetan minority areas in China, the State Department said, with bans imposed on the wearing by Muslim Uyghurs of Islamic veils or other clothing associated with “religious extremism,” and limits placed on the numbers of monks and nuns allowed to enroll in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

“Although authorities permitted some traditional religious ceremonies and practices” in Tibetan areas, authorities also often “restricted or canceled religious festivals, [and] at times forbade monks from traveling to villages to conduct religious ceremonies,” the report said.

Discrimination, travel bans

In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, Muslim, Christian, and other religious minorities often “faced physical abuse, arbitrary arrest and detention, restrictions on religious practice and travel, and discrimination in employment and access to citizenship,” the State Department said.

Government officials frequently withheld permission to build or repair mosques or other places of worship not belonging to the country’s Buddhist majority, the report said, while Buddhists were often favored by “unwritten government policies” for promotion into higher civil service or military ranks.

In Vietnam, authorities continued during the year to restrict the activities of religious groups operating outside of state control, with group members reporting “various forms of governmental harassment,” the State Department said.

Measures taken against unregistered groups included “assault, short term detentions, prosecutions, monitoring, restrictions on travel, and denials of registration and/or other permissions,” according to the report.

Protestant denominations in Vietnam’s Central Highlands reported discrimination against them by local authorities, while in June police and state-directed mobs in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province launched a campaign of harassment against an unregistered congregation of Mennonites.

Government forces harassed the community throughout the year, raiding Bible classes and detaining and beating church members, and at times preventing followers from leaving their homes, the report said.

Meanwhile, national laws protecting religious freedoms in Laos were routinely flouted by authorities in the provinces, the State Department said, adding that abuses were aimed most often at Protestant groups, “whether or not officially recognized.”

Attempted forced renunciations, detentions, and imprisonments were reported throughout the year, the report said.

“[But] government authorities often blamed the victims rather than the persecuting officials,” the report said.

“Even when the central government officials acknowledged certain actions, they often said the actions taken by local officials were not based on religion, but on local officials’ duty to maintain order.”

Source by: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/abuses-10142015173718.htm

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

In policy shift, China courts hardline Buddhist party ahead of Myanmar poll

Chinese officials have offered support to Aye Maung, chairman of Myanmar’s Arakan National Party, an organisation of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists that is riding a tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYAUKPYU, Myanmar (REUTERS) – A powerful ethnic nationalist politician from one of Myanmar’s poorest and most volatile regions said Chinese officials made him an irresistible offer during a recent visit to the country: Ask for anything, and we’ll give it to you.

Beijing’s courting of Aye Maung, chairman of the Arakan National Party (ANP), underscores how China is taking steps to protect its most strategic investments in Myanmar – twin oil and gas pipelines and a deep sea port – ahead of an unpredictable election in the South-east Asian nation next month.

Such willingness to engage with opposition parties to secure its investments overseas represents a major shift in China’s non-interventionist foreign policy. “We want China, or even America, or Singapore, if the Indian government invites me, we welcome it,” Dr Aye Maung told Reuters.”We need so many investments for the development of our area.”

The ANP, an organisation of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists that is riding a tide of anti-Muslim sentiment, is poised to make a near-clean sweep of Rakhine state in Myanmar’s first free and fair election in 25 years. There is speculation that Dr Aye Maung could win the powerful post of chief minister of the state.

That makes him a key potential ally for Beijing, whose most important Myanmar investments are located in the western state.

The fishing town of Kyaukpyu, racked by violence three years ago between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas, is at the heart of China’s drive for new resources and trade routes.

In particular, new oil and gas pipelines from Kyaukpyu connect China’s southwestern province of Yunnan directly with the Indian Ocean, bypassing the narrow Malacca Strait, where a strong US naval presence has long worried Chinese policymakers.

POLICY SHIFT

According to Dr Aye Maung, the ruling Chinese Communist Party invited him to visit Fujian and Guizhou provinces in July. At one meeting, he says an official from the party’s International Department told him China had only engaged with President Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and the ANP.

“They told me: we have connected with three parties. You are the one party from all the ethnic groups in Myanmar,” Dr Aye Maung told Reuters in an interview in Ann, a town near Kyaukpyu, where he was campaigning.

Dr Aye Maung’s two trips were covered in brief reports by local media in China and Myanmar, but no other accounts of what was discussed in his meetings have been made public.

The Communist Party’s International Department did not respond to a faxed request for comment. Calls by telephone went unanswered.

A senior official from Mr Thein Sein’s office said the Myanmar president had encouraged ties between China and NGOs and rival political parties in Myanmar. “I think they’re trying to improve ties, (Chinese talks) with the ANP is just a part of developing this new policy,” the official, Mr Zaw Htay, told Reuters.

For decades, China has relied on a simple formula for its foreign policy: avoid anything that could be seen as interfering in a country’s domestic politics.

But now, analysts say there is a growing belief in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration that the old doctrine is insufficient to protect Beijing’s interests. “In recent years, we suffered great losses in only dealing with ruling parties, so that required us to make a change,” said Xu Liping, head of the department of Asia-Pacific Social and Cultural Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think tank.

In June, Mr Xi hosted Nobel laureate Ms Suu Kyi.

Ties between Beijing and its southern neighbour were close when Myanmar was under military rule and treated as a pariah state by Western nations.

But in 2011, when the junta ceded power to a quasi-civilian government, China was stung by Myanmar’s sudden suspension of the Chinese-led US$3.6 billion (S$5 billion) Myitsone dam project in the northern state of Kachin following a public outcry over its environmental impact.

The event prompted Beijing to tweak its policy on Myanmar.”It was a heavy blow to the Chinese government,” said Mr Xu.

RISKY OUTREACH

Dr Aye Maung said he has not responded specifically to China’s offers of help. But he said he would like tractors and farm machinery to help with Rakhine’s harvest, and had also discussed student scholarships.

Rakhine could certainly use the assistance – the state has a poverty rate of 78 per cent, according to a 2014 World Bank report.

But although securing much-needed investment could strengthen Dr Aye Maung’s hand at home, accusations of land grabs and environmental destruction have fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar, and embracing Beijing is not without risk.

“There has been a lot of criticism about Dr Aye Maung’s trip from local organisations and young people,” said Mr Htoot May, an ANP candidate running in next month’s election. “We young people like Western policy and help, not Chinese policy.”

Chinese investments in Kyaukpyu could amount to nearly US$100 billion if all the current plans, including a special economic zone, materialise over the next two decades, according to C. Raja Mohan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But residents say the oil and gas pipelines built so far have not given them any jobs. “With the gas project, everyone thought that when they came, they would hire our workers,” said Tun Tun Naing, a 36-year-old local activist. “But when they arrived, even their cooks were Chinese.”

Source By: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/in-policy-shift-china-courts-hardline-buddhist-party-ahead-of-myanmar-poll

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized